Monday, 5 November 2012

More questions?

GospelMark 12:28-34 
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

I wonder if the scribe uses the question simply to join in the debate. This is surely the easiest question that Jesus has every been asked and, more than that, he answers it. 

The words of the 'Shema' are the first pieces of scripture that a Jewish child learns and are repeated at least twice a day for the rest of their life. These first lines, the heart of the faith,  are wrapped within a case as a mezusah - a blessing for the doorpost of a house, even the lintel of a room.

But then, Jesus looks into the 612 remaining precepts of Jewish law and names the second; a verse from Leviticus 19 'thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'.

We know what Jesus means when he says 'neighbour' - everyone you ever meet, everyone on the planet - we are all connected. If you don't want to love someone whether it's your awkward and actual next door neighbour, the down-and-out who comes and sits next to you on the park bench or the Third World child dying of Aids, you can't go and find the loophole; there won't be one.

Yet, we have managed to create a few boundaries. Using Church teaching to add 'ifs and buts'; applying measures of worth and unworth; justifying our place on the 'left' or 'right' hand of doctrine; building holocausts of those who don't fit our acceptable limits and sacrifices of those who challenge our preconceptions. 

Maybe this scribe was tired of all that, as I sometimes am myself. Love may be difficult at times but, surely, worth the effort. 

I was out with some students last week, visiting our Cathedrals and the Synagogue. The students were fascinated by everything they saw and experienced. We sat putting together our research into hand-made books, chatting about the day and their own lives. 

They asked me why there wasn't peace; why Christians go to war; why people are rich when others starve; why bad things happen to good people; why we don't follow the Gospel if we believe it's true?

Great questions - maybe we should be looking for our own answers.


No comments: